What better teacher could there be in the world than ourselves? Travel will teach you lessons about yourself and others that no one else can teach you. At least that’s what they tell you. But here’s my account on why. I met Jenny while in Singapore at the Green Kiwi Hostel. My first impression of her was that she was silent and didn't like me. But somehow, I felt as if there was something in her self-assured attitude that didn't quite fit with what I saw in her eyes. Some sort of mystery but also sensitivity. The following day I met her again in the living room of the hostel. As I saw one of her tattoos my curiosity couldn't be tamed any longer and I asked her about it. What followed were almost literally 2 hours of non-stop conversation about tattoos, life, spirituality and so many other topics. That day, we were stuck on chairs for hours as we realised what a great connection we had just made. So much even that I could barely leave to catch my plane. I’ll never forget this moment as it taught me once again that we should never judge a book by its cover. Jenny was deep and sensitive, and were it not for that one question I asked, I would have never seen the beautiful soul she was. When we are stuck on our first impressions, and stuck on ideas about people – it’s in asking better questions that we truly realise the beauty of each person. So when was the last time you asked something personal to a stranger?
Hi was one of the local workers I had met while volunteering in the gili meno eco hostel with workaway. He was part of those kids who’d grown up with family in Lombok, but decided to move somewhere else for work. Whether it was to go look for work, or look for an escape, here became his new home.
He was known to be able to do anything and learn fast – be it to make the perfect bonfire, play ukulele, crack open bamboo in a split second, master poi, or catch fish and crabs - but he was also part of the kids who had grown up with cell phones and youtube. His English remained impressive as he mastered not only part of the language enough to interact with us, but also an English/Australian accent he had picked up from the many Australian travellers that had passed through the gili meno eco hostel.
I soon picked up that around here, any local who mastered English enough was a sign that he had passed a mental frontier as he passed a linguistic one. Learning a language isn’t just about going to a class and picking up how to speak it. Here, if you mastered English, it was because you were in contact with foreigners. And in a vast country such as this one, this meant having either the luxury of it – or simply the open-mindedness. And Hi had in him a thirst to learn and do beyond frontiers that I recognised in all travellers.
As I encountered Felicia writing in her notebook I asked her what had brought her here in Gili Meno. Every year, leaving aside a job she worked very hard for, she allowed herself 3 weeks off away from the office, from her agenda, from people and from technology. It was hard to imagine her from that kind of world as her hair was drying in the sun and she wore but a sarong and seemed to blend perfectly in the surroundings of beaches, bamboo huts and a place that didn’t count with time.
What Felicia’s quote reflects on is that the way we look at things is always up to choice and up to how we want to look at them. When working in an office for instance - some people may look at things as impossible, while others may look at it like opportunities. When talking to a stranger, we may be on our guards – or we may look at them as a potential friend.
How we look at anything is ultimately a question of mind frames and perception. We have in the end the power to perceive reality anyway we want to – and hence also act on it. So that is why any given that I look at something that appears difficult, I try to remind myself that I have the capacity to change that perception and no one else! Share this if you believe in change and self-development!
“Si tu aimes ton présent, ne regrette pas ton passé” (If you like your present, do not regret your past”)
“Il y a deux jours important dans sa vie : le jour où tu es né, et le jour où tu comprends pourquoi tu es né” (there are two important days in your life – the day you are born – and the day you understand why)
Starting off as two solo travellers in South East Asia, they met by coincidence and soon became friends that decided to travel together.
It’s beautiful to see when two strangers meet on the road, become friends and decide to go on an adventure together.
In one conversation both of them were talking about the saturation of travelling for the sake of travelling… Somehow, the first 7 months of travel never make you question why you left. You travel for the sake of travel. And yet, by month number 7, comes a slight knock on the door of reality – the one that asks – “why and where are you heading dear friend?”
It’s the knock of our consciousness in a way – as we have learned that everything in life needs a purpose, it is hard to travel (or do anything maybe) without a purpose.
I think many of us head out to travel to find a way to cleanse ourselves of obligations and responsibilities, to see more clearly. And when one travels, all the opportunities to move in the directions and destinations you want are out there. We become the hitchhikers in a long story and confrontation with ourselves. Each stop or bump on the road serving as a lesson to be learnt.
Perhaps that is why travelling offers us the best perspective to understand ourselves better and understand where we want to head to…first with our feet, and then with our hearts – because we are confronted to the blank canvas of ourselves. And by doing so, maybe we our offering ourselves the best way to be a better future for ourselves.
Have you ever felt like there is no job or place in the world for you to fit what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about?
The amazing thing about Leo was his modesty in regards to his various talents. There were few things Leo wasn’t good at, and he always shared his passion for music, good books and circus tricks with the rest of the people around.
I came to meet a lot of people like Leo on my travels, who seemed to be so interested and good at everything – that in the end – they seemed to feel like they were advancing in nothing. He was a dreamer with a curious mind that hadn't found his place in a world that is too orientated for career monogamists.
Sometimes I feel the same - but maybe I need to remind myself that we don’t always need to advance in the direction of what pays us a good career. Maybe, what pays off more is advancing in the direction of what makes us dream...And not the kind of dreams that make us crave for holidays or rest, but quite the opposite, the kind of dreams that keep you awake at night…Some of the biggest thinkers of today did something meaningful in this world not because they were chasing reality, but because they were chasing dreams I think - and Leo's quote is a hopeful reminder of that.
It is hard to describe the magic of some places….But in my experience every place you leave has to be left with a heart-breaking goodbye…That is how you know that you have not only lived in a place, but that it has lived in you…This month is dedicated to the quotes left by the volunteers and people I met at the Gili Meno Eco Hostel - where I volunteered for my project – A hostel built by travellers for travellers – and that left something of a taste of Alex Garland's The Beach... Truth is I never really left the place because I carry it in my heart constantly…It is a place you enter as a stranger and leave as a family member and that is what makes it beautiful. Check out this space for the quotes and the stories left by these amazing and brave travellers !
“Travelling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
Cambodia, India, Thailand, Indonesia - this was where Rita had spent the last 7 months away from everything and everyone she knew...
If there was any image that came to mind to describe her, it was that she was like a plane on continuous turbulence. She had the kind of energy and vividness I believe you would only get after having spent 7 continuous months off track, 7 months out of your comfort zone – and now she was in the most brutal phases of all… trying to land back to a normal life rhythm, trying to land to a place she could call a new home in Madrid...
Our lives are filled with moments of turbulence and uncertainty. But then again, they account for the best stories too – if you’re planning to live a life well lived, embrace the turbulence for the results it may give – because it’s the brutality and the turbulence that gives it worth…Because the landing will happen, maybe not now, but eventually.
“The fear it grips me, but here I go…” (Lyrics from Alt-J)
Helen (From USA) had just arrived to Madrid as her first stop in her travels and search for another “home” – She had ditched her job and packed everything in a car to do this. I read in her eyes part of the fear but also the bravery.
I don’t believe that any great person in history has ever achieved anything without first having to battle with their own fears. Be it the fear of failure or uncertainty, while you’re about the land in a new country or even start a new job or give a presentation – we’ve all experienced it and it is in the end what makes us human. While most of us try to hide our fears from others – in reality - sharing our fears is probably what connects us most between humans as we share the vulnerability that we often try to put aside. Helen shared me a bit of hers at the doorstep of a hostel as we had only known each other for 10minutes and its what to me made her a genuine person.
If vulnerability is the greatest measurement of courage, then those who talk about them and confront their fears are probably the bravest…
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”- quote left by Mireille (from Holland) in Bali.
I met Mireille in a hostel in Bali and as we went for lunch one day she let me in on what she really wanted to study - which was the science of happiness. Her next stop in Thailand was going to offer courses at the mahidol university on exactly that. But more than a university, Thailand is also a place packed with travellers. She concluded that day that maybe travelling was for her the best way to understand what happiness was for others ; as the pursuit of happiness happens in many forms, no traveller ever went out in the world to seek unhappiness. He goes out in the world to find a sharper definition of what it means to him, and how to obtain it. And maybe in the end this is why our connections with fellow travellers are always much more meaningful than in our "other" lives – because as we all seek to go after what makes us happy – it changes us and makes us connect deeper with people who are looking for the same…So sometimes I wonder - why only limit ourselves to seeking happiness in travel – if we could be doing it back home – if that is in the end what makes us connect deeper as humans…?
Diego Sebastian :
“Hay situaciones en la vida donde pequeños momentos generan grandes historias”
"There are situations in life where small moments generate big stories"
I met Diego one night in Madrid at 3am as he asked for a lighter. Like many of the encounters you do in this city, some will last the time of a question and an answer – and others will last hours into the night. What usually trigger’s it all, is that one word you said, that one sentence you said, or sometimes even that one look you gave that was inviting enough. With patience and an inviting mind, be it that you are the local or the traveller, this is how great stories usually begin. Diego will probably never know, but after that night as he cracked my back explaining to me what he had learned in massage therapy while travelling in India – I let myself cry for the first time in months amid all the changes I had just lived. A wake up call that some emotions, no matter how much we judge them, need a time and place to come out.
“I may not be crazy, but I might just be the lunatic you’re looking for…”
With a head half-shaved, a bit of color, three dreadlocks hanging from behind and a braid somewhere in between – Zenia’s haircut seemed as adventurous and fluid as she was. Travelling through Madrid alone only for two days – it took us very little time before we asked her to join us to a concert and into the night with my friends.
What meeting Zenia made me reflect on, is that while travelling, we often forget that somewhere in the world, we are also “locals” to others. So as we all try hard when travelling to mix with locals or at least encounter friends – I wondered in turn: “If I am the local, what makes me open my home to travellers?” And the answers lied somewhere in her quote; I once read that finding friends is like finding the same type of lunatics around. What Zenia shared was her willingness to say yes, no judgement in her eyes, and genuine curiosity for the people she encountered. But most of all, she had an edge. The kind of edge that makes you want to learn more about her, and in return offer a piece of the life you live. Because that is after all the best “local” experience you can give.
My only advice would be then, to be that kind of “lunatic” when you’re on the road – act as freely, curiously, peacefully and non-judgemental as possible – because that aura is bound to make you encounter the friends you want and finally, the kind of experience you’re looking for.
“La realidad es tan solo la interpretación que da nuestra mente de lo que percibimos a través de los sentidos”
“Reality is only the interpretation that our mind gives through our senses”
Do we really need to travel to feel life more vividly?
If you were to give a hypnotist the chance to write a quote - this is what it would give. I have heard stories of people who travel and have their senses awakened. Felt like they had never felt more alive and felt like they found themselves. But this quote gave me a bit more perspective on the reality after travelling…
Some travel to feel life more, to get a glimpse of another kind of reality. But really deep down, maybe we don’t need to travel to find happiness, to see beauty, or to start living life. Maybe what we need above all, is a better interpretation of what we already have...
Jorge Astyaro is a licensed hypnotist in Madrid. As well as workshops and sessions, he also puts on shows, which is where I met him and where he gave me this quote. For the curious mind, I highly recommend to go see one as you will not come out of it indifferent - if you are in Madrid at the moment, make sure to check his shows out
(for english shows contact me by message)
“For better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat”
This one’s for all the single mothers out there – and for all those having their own battles to do…
Behind that typical LA smile, those big eyes and long dark hair - Natalia is different than what your first impression might be. Single mom at an age that some people judged as too young, she moved out of LA to little Belgium to raise her son alone. It would have been easy to see her as a victim – easy to think her life revolved only around her child and the possible difficulties of it all. And yet her interests, her hobbies, her will and her positive energy – are all the things that complete this person and her life.
What Natalia has – and that I’ve seen in many travellers – is the spirit to keep pushing through. The spirit to keep hoping – despite the difficulties on the road. Never have I heard her complain, and never have I seen her lose colors for life.
Because life just didn’t stop when she had her son…it only just began.
“Money is an illusion….The richest men in the world are those who’ve seen it”
Rob’s travels started with a one way ticket out of Perth and into the Asian and South American continent 4 years ago until landing later in Madrid. He had volunteered from hostel to hostel and done a series of odd jobs to fund his travels if not his stomach. What I’ve always found impressive about him (and secretly envied), was his way of living day to day with an unconcerned manner. He owned very little clothes and walked around with very little care about it. His foot had tattoo that read “Lucky” – and if anything, Rob made his own luck, in his own way – simple and easy going. He did not owe anything to anyone anymore, and went where roads would lead him - where there would be a roof above his head, or food in his plate – and most of all good people around. Hence, life didn’t own him, but he owned life.
“You do you !” - quote left by Pierre - Who do we travel for?
We’ve probably read it many times – that travelling helps you “find yourself”. But over the years and places you will travel to, there is probably no worse lie. In life and in travel, the first thing you find out, is that you create yourself – from the old part and into the new parts you become.
Pierre came to our hostel one night with no prior planning. Had travelled through Europe with the idea that if he had always had everything planned for him, now was as good as a time as any to see what it would be like without a plan. Some of his nights have ended up with sleeping in 24h McDonalds to name but an example. But on the path of building up his resilience to stress and a life unplanned, his adaptation skills have only made him stronger and more aware of what he can become and what he probably had in him all along. He was creating himself. For some it can take years to discover this – and for others, who voluntarily put themselves in these positions with travelling for instance – the confrontation with yourself and the realisation that you are alone and have nothing to own to but to yourself – is a great gift to learn. To you but also for those around you.
«Who are you?
-I am afraid I can’t answer that, I’ve changed so many times since this morning you see...»
Nitzan (from Israël) came to Madrid for a trip around Spain. While we were sitting at the rooftop bar of Las Musas Hostel, she was staring into the void with a smile on her face that I couldn't but help ask about. Although the rest of the story I disclose for another post, her quote and the conversation we had has been one of my favourite explaining the many personalities we take on as we travel.
They say travelling helps you find yourself – but I have always been a strong supporter of the idea that life, like travelling, makes you create yourself;
With the geographical distances we take from our homes, we also take mental distances from who we were back there. We start to see that in different settings we also become a different kind of person. Travelling may heighten it, as your context changes brutally from one country to the other. But softer than this, is also the adventure of life itself; the changes we go through as life makes us embark on new journeys of choices, contradictions, highs and lows. That we become a different person because of it, is not only an expectation but an anticipation.
This one is for all the mothers who sometimes think their words and wisdom are taken for granted…
A quote left by Giulia (from Italy) – in the last week before her departure back to Italy after having spent a year here in what she counts as one of the best periods of her life. It’s a quote her mother had left her just before kissing her goodbye a year ago when coming to Madrid. And ironically enough, as Giulia was packing her bags that week – ordering what to leave and what to take back – she stumbled on this quote. A strong and supportive message from Mother Theresa – but also from her own mother – who, although not there physically – was there for her daughter in words in the weeks that she probably needed it the most. A reminder of what’s worth fighting for in life: the gratefulness we need to preserve when things in life are beautiful – and the will to fight that we need to preserve when things get rough. And if you ever get to met Giulia and hug her in person – you’ll know her hugs mean exactly that – whether they are there to say hello or goodbye.
"Life emerges out of the asphalt's crack" - Jean Claude
He told me as he was explaining to me that it was in the accident that life happened - in the bus you missed and the conversation that followed with a stranger - in the plans that failed and the new ones that emerged. His trip started with this realisation and with the will to look for the cracks in life - because as we are all preoccupied with flattening our lives like roads with a thick and safe layer of concrete - we forget that nonetheless is in between the cracks that flowers and thus life emerges. Thank you Jean Claude for the many lucid talks.
"l'anima brucia più di quanto illumini" // "The soul burns more than it illuminates"
How often have you met people like this ? With whom you would think easily that they are just about living life like a party - with long nights but elusive days. Those people we call party go-ers or too independent. When really what lies underneath is a thick layer of personality but most of all sensitivity. After having spent 2 months as her roommate in a hostel, friend and contextual sister, it was clear to me that when you put aside origin for context and take the time to not judge but appreciate - there are many things in people that are burning within them but that we don´t always see. If Matilde (from Italy) was able to lead groups of 15 strangers at night through the streets of Madrid - it was because she was born a leader - one that burns from within rather than from without. And what people most likely followed was exactly that. A soul set on fire with wills and desires. And as we hugged and cried at her departure - despite knowing each other for only two months - you realise that goodbyes hurt because we had decided to live it all to the core. And that is why it mattered.
"I gotta testify, come up in the spot looking extra fly
Before the day I die, I'mma touch the sky" - Touch the Sky/Kanye West
Travelling through Europe from the States - this is the one song and one sentence Colin repeated to himself - headphones on his ears blasting these words and uplifting beats of hopes as he walked into every new city.
"La vie est toujours là dans ses innombrables nuances : avec un rire et une larme // "Life is always there in its countless nuances : with a laugh and a tear" - "Nos rêves sont les fils conducteurs de notre vie" // "Our dreams are the connecting threads of our lives"
It was in her melancholic look that lingered at the reception desk that I found reasons to ask her for a quote. As she had just said and hugged Sergio goodbye - whom she and her friend connected with over the last few days - I saw that her last goodbye left her a little unsettled. Possibly that this quote summed up beautifully what it was to appreciate and live moments of new found friendships that you live so intensively during your travels, that necessarily the joy of it cannot be followed without a bit of sadness. But if there´s anything I've learned so far in travel, it is that necessarily without the sadness, the joy might just not be as real.
"Il n'y a pas de chance mais que du hazard (bien) organisé" // "There is no luck, only (well) organized probability"
Left by someone I met at the doorstop of our hostel at 4am when a few words with what seemed to be an introverted traveller sparked him on a frenzy around anecdotes from his past trips that all aligned somehow in a narrow path between fortune and misfortune. To those who believe travelling is about luck - it is perhaps important to remind ourselves that we are just as much the leaders than the creators of the luck we live. And with the many things that can and do go wrong when one is out of their own familiarity - travelling is most likely what will prove to you the most how much of a leader you are - even if it is hard to see at times.
“Never lie, steal, cheat, or drink. But if you must lie, lie in the arms of the one you love. If you must steal, steal away from bad company. If you must cheat, cheat death. And if you must drink, drink in the moments that take your breath away.”
Ten is the kind of guy you’d meet from afar and wonder what ethnic mixture is in his veins – between South African and Pakistani with an edge of Michael Jackson. He came Madrid to start as a PR and party promoter. From afar, he is a man of image. But within is a different story that not all see or look to see. In this kind of job – and much like his quote – it is easy to begin assuming that it is all about glamour and superficiality. But as you dig deeper for meaning – you might be surprised to see that there is always more (meaning) than what meets the eye…
"Aquí estoy para vivir
mientras el alma me suene,
y aquí estoy para morir,
cuando la hora me llegue,
en los veneros del pueblo
desde ahora y desde siempre.
Varios tragos es la vida
y un solo trago es la muerte."
Miguel Hernández - SENTADO SOBRE LOS MUERTOS //
"I am here to live
while the soul permits,
and here to die,
when the hour arrives,
in the veins of the people
now and forever.
Life is a lot to swallow,
death is only a gulp.
Miguel Hernández - SITTING UPON THE DEAD
"Denke lauter, als andere schreien" // "Think louder when others scream"
Tall, quite, but with a sarcastic sense of humour - I met Ilya at the doorstep of my hostel - a boyish but reassuring smile hidden away underneath a black hoodie - one hand holding a beer, the other tucked into his pocket as if he was waiting for a bus but not really counting the minutes. And though he seemed like any other tourist that came to this city - I learned later that he had come to Madrid with not even a toothbrush or a suitcase, but just with an open mind to saying yes to whatever came his way and the need to move somewhere for the week. Be it that we travel to go to places, or that we travel to escape places - in the end it seems that travel is a way of dealing with what our minds and thoughts don't want to quiet down at times. And sometimes spontaneity or impulse is the only way of dealing with it.
"Last words for the Road" // Lauren Lemonade
Book-in-the-making : A collection of travel inspired quotes by travel inspired people met on the road.